Mary MacKillop: Vatican echoes to sound of didgeridoos

Dancers waiting to go on

Dancers waiting to go on

The Vatican echoed to the sounds of the didgeridoo yesterday,  as an aboriginal troupe in dramatic body paint performed songs and dances in honour of Blessed Mary MacKillop, who will be declared Australia's first saint tomorrow.

More than 8,000 pilgrims have travelled to Rome from Australia to be present at the Canonisation Mass in St Peter's Square, celebrated by Pope Benedict.   Among them are dozens of nuns wearing turquoise scarves from the Josephite order which Mary MacKillop founded.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who formally apologised for the treatment of indigenous Australians in 2008, attended the show and opened an exhibition of Aboriginal art in the Vatican museum. Exhibits on show included didgeridoos, boomerangs, spears and headdresses from the 19th and 20th centuries, many of which were donated to the Vatican by Aboriginal Catholics.

Mr Rudd said: "I think all Australians, whether they be Catholic or not... are looking forward to an extraordinary weekend of celebrations in honour of an extraordinary Australian woman."

Nereda White, a professor for indigenous studies at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane, said: "Mary MacKillop had a deep concern for the education of indigenous peoples."

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